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"Togetherness" - Unity Through Community Camping
7th grade | 3 or 4 days

Program: The Achdoot program is a camping excursion for students in 7th grade or higher. Over the course of three days and two nights, students are completely immersed in the natural world. From the moment they watch the sunrise, during morning t'fillot, until the sun sets and the campfire is lit for warmth and light, students are acutely aware of the challenges, wonders, rhythms, and beauty of the world around them.

Goals: The goals of Achdoot are four-fold: (1) to foster group cohesion and community development, (2) to teach wilderness skills, (3) to develop self-esteem, and (4) to engender Jewish environmental ethics.

  1. Group Cohesion and Community Development: 4,000 years ago the Israelites formed their identity as a people through a 40-year journey in the wilderness. Similarly, Achdoot participants will come together as a group through a variety of challenges that they will face during their program, tasks such as fire-building, and food preparation. In addition, through group building activities and challenges on our portable low ropes course, students learn the importance of good communication skills and the power of cooperation.
  2. Teaching Wilderness Skills: As citizens of a post-modern society we have lost many of the skills our ancestors relied on for survival. During this program, students will re-learn forgotten crafts and knowledge: how to make fires and natural shelters, how to cook with a cooking stove, and the nutritional and medicinal uses of local flora.
  3. Developing Self-Esteem: Like the ancient Israelites who were challenged to live by a new set of laws and moral norms as they traveled through the wilderness, so too will Teva students be faced with strange new codes of behavior. There will be no showers. They will have with them everything they need for 72 hours. They will rely on the land for basic needs such as warmth (fire) and water. Yet, with the guidance of Teva instructors and chaperones, students will learn how to thrive in their new environment. They will emerge more confident and independent; they will return to "civilization" having developed a more intimate relationship with the natural world and more deeply appreciative of the natural resources that make modern conveniences accessible in our lives.
  4. Jewish Environmental Ethics: In Midrash Kohelet Rabbah it is written, "When God created the first human beings, God led them around the Garden of Eden and said, 'Look at my works. See how beautiful they are - For your sake I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil and destroy my world; for if you do there will be no one else to repair it.' "

As students are led through the "gardens" which are our state parks, many develop a sense of awe and appreciation for the natural world. The emotional connections they develop with the landscape then serve as a catalyst for discussion of current environmental issues. Students examine both the science underlying each problem and relevant Jewish texts and concepts that may offer us a response. They will leave the program not only with a deeper understanding of the environmental crisis and a renewed sense of commitment to caring for all of God's creation, but also with visceral knowledge of how reliance on Earth's resources provides the luxuries that we too often take for granted.

In the evenings, students participate in all group programs, including discussions of Jewish texts and singing and storytelling.

T'fillot: Prayers may be scheduled and led by the group's leaders with assistance from Teva staff members. Blessings are said before and after eating and taught for other natural events as a means of cultivating awareness and expressing wonder and gratitude.

Safety: All Teva staff members are first aid and CPR certified and carry first aid kits at all times. They also receive basic wilderness medical training. In addition, an emergency vehicle will be at base camp throughout the trip.

Staff: Each program will be led by two Teva camping specialists and accompanied by at least one teacher/chaperone.

Location: All Achdoot programs will take at a group campsite in a State Park. Specific Park information will be given to schools individually.

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